MOSI’s History and Future

MOSI's History

MOSI today is the result of more than 50 years of growth and maturity reflecting both the institution and the surrounding community. The passage of time has seen MOSI change in name, location and size. However, its general purpose, to provide informal science education, has remained unchanged. In 1962, Hillsborough County first approved funding for a youth museum in Sulphur Springs on the banks of the Hillsborough River.


Later renamed the Museum of Science and Natural History, this small museum provided natural science exhibits and education programs to children and adults. In 1967, the name of the Museum was changed to the Hillsborough County Museum. The fledgling institution continued to expand its programs and, in 1972, hired its first professional director.

In 1976, the Hillsborough County Museum's advisory committee and staff obtained the funding and land to construct an innovative and unique museum structure in North Tampa that was to become the Museum of Science & Industry. A new director and key professional staff were hired in 1978-79 to focus MOSI's direction and purpose as construction proceeded.

Relying on the valuable history of its predecessor museums, MOSI staff took advantage of the scientific, technological and industrial growth occurring in Tampa and at the neighboring University of South Florida (USF) to design a visionary, high-tech facility. Completed in 1980 and permanently opened to the public in 1982, MOSI has provided public programs and exhibits which support its mission and seek to meet the needs of a growing and vibrant community.

In 1987, an intensive examination of the Museum's mission and goals, coupled with an assessment of the community's needs, produced a long-range, three-phase Master Plan for MOSI's growth and development. In 1988, the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners set aside 38 acres valued at $6.6 million adjacent to the existing MOSI facility to ensure that the goals of the master plan could be accomplished.

An additional 23.5 acres valued at $2.2 million were also set aside for the Museum by the county in 1995 to provide additional space for expansion over the next ten years. In 2000, the county purchased a final three-acre tract to complete the current 74 acre MOSI campus.

mosi-dome-smallPhase I of the Master Plan included the construction of the 190,000 square foot science center with Florida's only IMAX® Dome Theatre, extensive permanent and temporary exhibition galleries, a planetarium and a public library was completed in July, 1995. Phase II which began in June, 1996, allowed for renovation of the original structure (now referred to as the Whitney Andrews Lang Center for Learning) and development of The Back Woods Nature Center.

Refurbishment of the exhibit and program areas began and much needed classroom space was added along with the BioWorks Butterfly Garden, an innovative water treatment facility/exhibit. Phase III of the master plan was completed in 2005 with the opening of Kids In Charge!, the largest children's science center in the nation. Earlier, through an innovative partnership with the Institute for Business & Home Safety, MOSI completed the Dr. Gladys Shafran Kashdin Welcome Center in 2001. MOSI is now the largest science center in the southeastern United States.

MOSI is accredited by the American Association of Museums and by the Association of Science-Technology Centers.

MOSI's Future

On April 19, 2016, MOSI's board of directors voted to begin planning to relocate MOSI to Downtown Tampa. The board approved next steps, which will include gathering an expert task force, launching strategic planning, conducting community discussions, and engaging specialized staff to design and fundraise for a new world-class science center.

Launching a project that will create an iconic institution and a beacon for learning in Tampa’s cultural core, the Museum of Science & Industry’s board of directors voted to begin planning to relocate and reinvent MOSI in a new, cutting-edge home in Downtown Tampa.

spp-downtown-tampa-developmentThe vote follows the board’s review of a feasibility study that projects promising attendance and finances in a new location, as well as pledges of support from key partners in Hillsborough County and Strategic Property Partners, the group leading the effort to redevelop the area around Amalie Arena.

A new facility presents a path to fiscal sustainability for MOSI, and that sustainability will power its vital, unique blend of fun and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) learning for generations to come.

MOSI will now bring together a task force of community partners, land use experts, philanthropists, museum master planners, scientists, and educators to lead the relocation and reinvention of the science center.

In addition, MOSI will take these next steps:

  • Launch a strategic planning process to chart the future of MOSI as a reinvented, vibrant, future-focused science center.
  • Lead community conversations to discover what the people of Tampa Bay want from their new, innovative institution.
  • Engage a specialized team of professionals to begin the design, planning, and fundraising for a world-class science center.

The planning effort that is now underway will identify the features, exhibits, and programs offered in a new science center; an exact location and size; and the costs and funding sources involved.